Predators Game Day Preview: Nashville @ Detroit

[SB Nation] - [NHL] - [Winging it in Motown] - [Tennessean] - [Detroit Free Press]

In a matinée edition of Nashville Predators hockey, our heroes travel to the Motor City to take on the Detroit Red Wings in what may amount to be a contest to see who gets to play the Phoenix Coyotes. The Wings are a mere point behind the Preds, and a win tonight would enable Nashville to take a breath with just two games left in the regular season. The goaltenders in this one have been the best in the business for a solid month. 

Its the Predators and the Red Wings. Its basically playoff hockey, so continue below, won't you?

Special Note: today's a 1PM CST start time, so plan/set your DVRs accordingly.

Nashville

The Predators are coming off what was (well, at least for myself) an emotionally stirring comeback win against the St. Louis Blues. Nashville was pretty awful in the early-going, being outshot 8-0 at one point in the first period. They found themselves down 2-0 in the second, but youngsters Patric Hornqvist and Colin Wilson took over by combining for a goal, three assists, and Wilson's first NHL fight. The crowd perked up significantly after the fight, and you got the feeling inside the building that things were about to happen. Steve Sullivan scored on a breakaway, and Pekka Rinne robbed David Perron in the dying seconds of the game to seal the win and all but eliminate the Blues. 

As for today, the Predators need to play a good road game. What I mean by that is this:

  • Don't beat yourself with penalties and turnovers at the blue line leading to odd-man rushes. 
  • Get lots of traffic in front of Jimmy Howard. Last Saturday in Nashville, the Predators didn't swarm the net and it cost them to the tune of no goals. 
  • Don't back down or be complacent. If you get hit, hit back harder. Hornqvist personified what I mean here on Thursday. 

Lines

Forwards
Wilson - Legwand - Erat
Sullivan (A) - Goc - Hornqvist
Tootoo - Boyd - Dumont
Ward - Smithson - Spaling
Defense
Suter (A- Weber (A)
Hamhuis - Franson
Bouillon - Klein

In Net

I'm slightly biased, but it wouldn't be a stretch to say he's been the NHL's best goaltender since the Olympic break. The other option, of course, will be at the other end of the ice this afternoon.

Pekka Rinne

#35 / Goalie / Nashville Predators

6-5

206

Nov 03, 1982

GP MIN W L EGA GA GAA SA SV SV% SO
2009 - Pekka Rinne 55 3062 30 15 129 2.53 1447 1318 .911 7

Injury Report

Per Bryan Mullen, looks like no Jason Arnott (again). Not a reassuring sign, at all. No Denis Grebeshkov either, but maybe Jordin Tootoo will play since his healthy scratch on Thursday appeared to be just a wakeup call.

Detroit

The Wings have more than made up for all the early season slumping, and are on a seven game win streak, most recently a 3-2 victory over the Blue JacketsWIIM:

After a season in which it seemed the Detroit Red Wings couldn't catch a break on video replays, they finally had one go their way when the on-ice official was overruled and the goal counted, giving the Red Wings a 3-1 lead.

...

The Red Wings tightened their grip on sixth place in the Western Conference, but were unable to make up ground as the Nashville Predators came back with three straight goals to win 3-2 over the St. Louis Blues.

The Wings would strike first and early. Datsyuk took the puck along the boards to the left of Mason. He put a backhander on the stick of Holmstrom. Holmstrom put a four-footer past Mason to earn his 22nd of the season just 2:21 into the game.

Lines

Forwards
Franzen - Datsyuk (A)- Holmstrom
Bertuzzi - Zetterberg - Filppula
Williams - Miller - Draper (A)
Meech - Helm - Eaves
Defense
Lidstrom (C) - Rafalski
Kronwall - Stuart
Ericsson - Lilja

In Net

The NHL's other hot goalie:

Jimmy Howard

#35 / Goalie / Detroit Red Wings

6-0

210

Mar 26, 1984

GP MIN W L EGA GA GAA SA SV SV% SO
2009 - Jimmy Howard 59 3493 34 15 132 2.27 1750 1618 .925 2

Injury Report

Detroit Red Wings Injuries

Doubtful

Player Injury Type Injury Date
Dan Cleary groin 04/02/2010

Out (IR / Out / Suspended / Physically unvailable)

Player Injury Type Injury Date
Kirk Maltby shoulder 02/26/2010

Fearless Prediction

If the Predators didn't clinch on Friday night, this could very well be the most important game of the season between a) seeding, b) keeping the Red Wings down, and c) qualifying for the playoffs. The problem? Nashville is without their most prolific clutch scorer (Arnott), playing a team with all sorts of big-game experience, away from home, and are mired in a horrific power play slump. I'd love nothing more than to get a heroic effort out of the boys this time of year. Even if we did, I'm not sure it'd be enough. Don't let seeding fool you- these Wings are a top team in this league. Red Wings 4, Predators 2. 

Remember readers of On the Forecheck can take advantage of offers on cheap Nashville Predators tickets.

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